Drag Race UK’s Lawrence Chaney and Ellie Diamond on sisterhood, social media trolls and doing it for Scotland
Lawrence Chaney and Ellie Diamond went from a pair of Drag Race superfans to the first Scottish queens to compete in its UK edition.
Now, they’re both vying for the crown.
“Drag Race was my first ever experience with the art form of drag, as well as with people being openly gay and openly flamboyant, and camp and fierce,” Ellie recalls ahead of the season two finale.
Lawrence chimes: “I started watching in season four in America and it was the first time I heard people talking about being married and gay, talking about queer problems, STIs, things I’d never heard of in rural Scotland. And it was really an eye-opener because these people are so unapologetically themselves.
“At school I was so nervous that I would hide everything that was queer about myself. So it was just amazing to see people who are talented, who knew their craft, but also had confidence in themselves, who were unapologetically themselves. It’s weird how that circle has turned and we’re now in it.”
The two queens have had very different paths to the top on Drag Race UK. Lawrence Chaney came storming out the gate, notching three wins in the first five episodes. After a brief stumble in Snatch Game – an episode she sincerely hopes Miriam Margolyes did not tune in to – it seems her confidence was somewhat knocked, but her undeniable star power got her to the final.
Ellie, meanwhile, has been safe every single week until last, when she was forced to lip-sync for the first time. She’s the only queen in the top four without a coveted Drag Race UK Ru Peter badge, but to her it doesn’t matter.
“RuPaul obviously sees something in me, that there is potential, that there is something magical about the experience of the Diamond,” she says.
Though their Drag Race UK experience has been life-changing, it hasn’t all been positive. Both Ellie and Lawrence have been targeted by hateful trolls, with Lawrence recently deleting her Twitter account to get away from the “disgusting abuse”.
Some of the worst hate came over a row the pair had that stretched across two episodes, over Ellie putting all her fellow queens at a disadvantage when deciding the running order of a comedy challenge.
“This is the double edged sword with the Drag Race fandom,” Lawrence says.
“We love them and they are amazing, because they care. We are insanely lucky to have people focusing and caring. But where there are overly positive things, there are overly negative things. For every comment saying, ‘You saved my life, I love you, you’re going to have someone saying ‘I hope you die’. I don’t think there’s any point in trying to change it because I think folk are set in their ways. What am I going to do that’s going to inherently change the way they view reality TV stars?”
“What you saw was not me assassinating Ellie Diamond’s character. Me and Ellie have argued over wigs, we’ve argued over Nando’s, it wasn’t new to us, we’ve had ups and downs as friends do. And I’m not gonna stop anyone from having an opinion. I love watching the American [Drag Race] and going, ‘Oh aye, she should have gone home.’ But I refuse to be a doormat. If you want to call me a bully, fair enough. You don’t need to tag me. And you don’t need to call me a fat c**t either. I am a fat c**t. But it’s got nothing to do with it.”
Ellie adds: “It’s a little bit harder because you have to face a brand new wave of people that you’ve never spoken to before in your life. But they’re just someone behind a keyboard. If Lawrence were to message me saying ‘I hate you’, I’d be in buckets of tears, because that’s someone I care about. But if Brian from Liverpool is messaging me saying ‘Go die’, I’m like cool, block. It’s not someone I love. I don’t care. I’ve got very strong backbone because I’ve had to deal with it quite a lot in my life.”
Amid the abuse, the Drag Race UK and US sisterhoods have closed rank. Sister Sister, who previously spoke out about receiving “painful” hate, was a big help, Lawrence says. Mrs Kasha Davis, from the seventh American season, also reached out and told her “to make best friends with the block button”.
For Ellie, “all we can do collectively is call out shite”. And right now, she’s got bigger things on her plate, like the small matter of the Drag Race UK final.
“Our biggest competition is ourselves,” Ellie says. “We only need to battle with ourselves and try to do the best that we can. We’re fighing for the crown.”
Lawrence thinks Bimini is certainly tough competition, but agrees with Ellie. “To quote Lady Gaga, my biggest enemy is me, pop a 911.”
The RuPaul’s Drag Race UK final drops at 7pm on BBC iPlayer. The entire series is available to stream now.